‘Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine by thy food.’ – Hippocrates (Perhaps? It’s subject to debate.)
It became very clear to me with the anxieties I have experienced surrounding food, that I needed to take better care of what I put in my body. Over the 2017/2018 seasonal period of binge eating on Starbucks paninis and muffins, with other highly processed food and anything I could get my hands on when binging, needless to say my stomach was fucked for a long while after.
Still to this day, the thought of a Starbucks Croque Monsieur panini makes me feel ill. I actually like Croque Monsieur, and any other café is usually ok. But the Starbucks one? Nope. I can still taste the claggy, floury, heavy stuff if I imagine it, and remember all too well how it sat on my stomach. Not well. Then again, I can’t imagine anything sitting on a near-exploding stomach would feel good.
Post breakdown it became abundantly clear that I needed to change what I was doing and change it fast. I needed to take a better approach to my health and I certainly haven’t been perfect at that. For the last few years however, I’ve eaten healthier than I ever have and especially taking more care since my IBS diagnosis last year.
From my breakdown two years ago (baring in mind, recovery is a LONG road) to now, I’ve changed my diet substantially. It’s become much more balanced with good, nutritious food, focusing more on fruits and veg, healthy grains and less junk. Along with getting back to regular exercise (something I genuinely enjoy as well as it being generally good for health) like yoga, pilates, cardio (I really like Billy Blanks workouts) and walks.
It might sound like a dismissive cliché, to say to someone who’s mental health took a severe battering at the time ‘change what you eat and you’ll feel better’ as if that alone will make depression and anxiety will go away. It’s like the facetious ‘have you tried yoga?’ of the nutritional world when reacting to depression (side note though: I love yoga and it personally does help me.) But from my experience, it really can help.
Eating healthier has helped a good deal with my wellbeing and overall health. With that comes helping my mental health as well. But obviously, that alone wasn’t going to help, and the medicine I take has played a massive part in being able to function better. Without that I have no doubt in my mind I would have had a stay in a hospital. Everyone’s health and wellbeing is unique to them, so my way of self-care may not be for everyone.
I like knowing what’s going into my food and the good stuff that goes into it. Especially since being diagnosed with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) it’s important I take as good a care of my health by putting nutritious things into my body that isn’t going to trigger a flare-up.
My go-to breakfast is usually porridge with fruit, usually strawberries and blueberries. One of all-time favourite foods is salmon, in particular, the cold ready to eat salmon. It’s an oily fish, it’s delicious and I find it can also help as a restorative dish post-flare-up. Unfortunately, I can’t buy as much as I’d like. I don’t know if it’s the same anywhere else, but in the UK, fish can get quite expensive. A cheaper option is prawns, and also really delicious.
It’s so far been very stomach friendly and with it being a favourite, I can’t fault that. A favourite dish I like to make is salmon, green veggies (like broccoli or green beans), with rice and some herbs. Maybe some feta cheese as well if the mood strikes. It’s not a specific recipe and I can switch things up with whatever is in the fridge. Red peppers? Chop them up and use them. No fish? Oven bake some chicken with herbs and spices. I like to take the Nigella philosophy to cooking with felxibility, using whatever you’d like or have around.
While I still have my moments and combatting food-related anxiety will always be, for those who’ve experienced it, an ongoing battle, I’ve found this kind of approach to food, a more medicinal and health-related approach, has been helping. By approaching it as a form of self-care, I find I am eating better, feeling better and re-embracing my love for cookery.